Death toll from Libya's capital battle rises to over 250

Death toll from Libya's capital battle rises to over 250
The fighting between rival militias in Libya's capital Tripoli has led to the deaths of 254 people, among them scores of civilians.
2 min read
22 April, 2019
Fighters loyal to the GNA clash with Haftar's forces south of Tripoli [AFP/Getty]

At least 34 more people have died in fighting for control of Libya's capital over the past two days, bringing the total to 254 dead so far, including civilians, reported the United Nations health agency.

The World Health Organisation said late Sunday that 1,228 have been wounded since the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive earlier this month to take Tripoli.

Over 25,000 people have been displaced, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The fighting pits the force, led by Khalifa Hafter, against rival militias affiliated with a weak UN-supported government in the capital - the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the authority of the Tripoli government.

In-depth:  Who is Khalifa Haftar, Libya's CIA-linked rogue general-turned-warlord?

Abdelhadi Lahouij, the top diplomat for a rival, east-based government, told The Associated Press in Tunis that Hafter's push slowed down because of the "crucial" issue of protection for Tripoli civilians.

An airport in Tripoli reopened Sunday despite a wave of airstrikes targeting the city on Saturday night as part of an ongoing offensive from rebel forces.

President Donald Trump phoned Hafter last week, expressing US support for Hafter's perceived stance against terrorism. Haftar is also backed by the UAE, Egypt, Russia and other foreign powers.

Haftar, who was exiled in the US for two decades, returned to Libya in 2011 when the revolution erupted, commanding forces that eventually toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since Gaddafi's ouster, Libya has been governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.